Seven cities and community services districts have backed the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District’s appeal of a controversial Mercer-Fraser Company project that seeks to build a cannabis manufacturing facility along the Mad River near Glendale.

The water district is appealing the Humboldt County Planning Commission’s January approval of the project, claiming it has the potential of contaminating drinking water for 88,000 county residents because of its proximity to one of the district’s water pumps on the Mad River.

This month, the boards and city councils for all seven of the water district’s municipal customers — Eureka, Arcata, Blue Lake, and the McKinleyville, Manila, Fieldbrook-Glendale and Humboldt community services districts — voted to support the appeal.

“It shows that 100 percent of our customers are concerned about the issue,” Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District General Manager John Friedenbach said Wednesday, “and that they’re concerned about the quality of the water supply for the constituents and that it’s a serious issue for the Board of Supervisors to consider.”

When the appeal will go before the Board of Supervisors is up in the air. County Planning and Building Director John Ford said that there is no date set for the appeal.

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HCSDLast night, the Humboldt Community Services District voted 3-1 (with Frank Scolari opposed and Alan Bongio abstaining) to support an appeal by the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District of a zoning change adjacent to the Mad River that would allow a cannabis manufacturing plant near the wells that supply drinking water to 88,000 residents. HCSD purchases drinking water from the HBMWD, and distributes it to customers in Cutten, Mitchell Heights, and other neighborhoods just outside Eureka city limits. HCSD is the fifth drinking water supplier to support the appeal, following Eureka, Arcata, Blue Lake, and the McKinleyville Community Services District. 


The Eureka City Council on Tuesday evening directed city staff to draft a letter supporting an appeal against a proposed cannabis manufacturing facility near the Mad River in the Glendale area.

“The city maintains water rights on the Mad River,” Eureka Public Works Director Brian Gerving said.

The proposed 5,000-square-foot volatile and nonvolatile cannabis manufacturing facility is on a Mercer-Fraser Company-owned parcel adjacent to Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District collection wells that supply water for about 88,000 residents around Humboldt Bay. A gravel extraction facility has been operating at the site for decades.

In 2016 MCMP Humboldt, LLC — a business entity associated with Mercer-Fraser, Gerving said — submitted an application to the county to rezone the site of the proposed project from “agriculture general” to “heavy industrial with a qualified combining zone,” which included a special permit to develop and operate a cannabis manufacturing facility.

“It’s my opinion that we can’t take chances with 88,000 peoples’ drinking water supply,” Councilman Austin Allison said.

“This is too great of a risk for us to be willing to take,” Councilwoman Kim Bergel said.

“When it comes to our water, we want to be involved,” Councilwoman Heidi Messner said.

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Resolutions introduced in each state house by North Coast legislators Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) and state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) formally oppose the Trump administration’s plan to allow new offshore drilling leases off the coast.

Both resolutions call on Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to remove California from the list of states that could be opened to new offshore drilling.

“The Trump administration continues to attack California on many fronts and now they are opening up our coastal waters to the environmental vulnerabilities of oil drilling, a coastline we have fought to protect for decades,” Wood said in a statement sent to the Times-Standard on Monday. “To ignore the environmental devastation done by oil spills and dismiss the critical importance of working toward independence from fossil fuels is irresponsible and, frankly, feels vindictive.”

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Eureka, Arcata and McKinleyville officials are set to discuss a controversial project by Mercer-Fraser Company to construct a cannabis manufacturing facility near the Mad River about 1,000 feet upriver from a water pump that provides drinking water to two-thirds of the county’s population.

The Eureka City Council will be the first to discuss the project this week, followed by the Arcata City Council and McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors on Wednesday.

The proposed Glendale cannabis facility has raised significant concern from the county’s main water supplier, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District. District officials have said that the facility and proposed zoning change on the parcel could possibly contaminate drinking water for about 88,000 county residents the district serves. The district has since appealed the project to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, with a hearing expected to take place later this month.

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